Saturday, 8 July 2017

About the cats

Still only three, Crema Grigio and Theo. there were six that we left them last November with a lot of dried food,an automatic dispenser that Mario filled regularly and a little house to sleep in. We didn't intend to leave them so long but works in the penthouse dragged on into May. In March this year Giovanni and his wife returned from winter in Rome to their lovely house above us and of course the cats sensing company moved up to join them. Mario passed the remains of our food and some more he bought to Giovanni who took over the feeding and provided the family with a nice place to sleep. All was going well and we had regular positive reports. Then Giovanni and his wife, I have been told her name but I can never remember it, returned to Rome for a month and did not make provision for the cats. I wish we'd known we could have got Mario back on duty. When they returned to the mountainside only two of kittens and Theo were still here. We have guessed at all sorts of possibilities and looked around the area for the missing ones but there is no sign. It seems strange that three siblings who were devoted to each other, the two here still are, would split up. Rosso the third kitten was the most friendly, he was a delight and would be adopted easily. The mother we can understand going off if she had new babies and Marzio the kitten from two years ago had turned into an unneutered holligan he could be in Sicily by now. If three could survive without regular feeding then surely they all could. So we have to accept the family has reduced. The kittens are brilliant, they have relaxation to an art and have remembered all the naughty things they did last year, play fighting under the sofa, sleeping on shelves, constantly unpacking my knitting bag. Crema even managed to remove a ball band and unwind a full 50 g of sock yarn, turning it into an almighty tangle that kept me occupied for some time. I am so glad we had them neutered last year and delighted they are still here. We plan to stay in Italy into the Autumn but already I am fretting about leaving them again, they get cross enough when we go out for the day.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The other side

We spend so much time sitting out on our terrace, eating, reading, chatting, snoozing and just gazing. Most evenings we sit looking across the valley to the mountains opposite ours and see lights twinkling on the horizon. I made enquiries and found that the highest village we see is a small place, population about 1000, called Rocca Massima. On Friday we went to visit having called at the opticians en route as I accidentally sat on and bent Mr FF's everyday glasses. They were fixed quickly and at no cost. Rocca Massima about an hours drive away was a delight, perched high on a ridge with views back across the valley to our mountain on one side and down to the sea on the other. Little traffic free streets and steps wound round past beautiful houses with so many pots of flowers, cats sleeping on door steps, old ladies sitting at windows. We wandered around and came upon a group of six men who had dragged a table onto the street and were tucking into a massive pan of pasta, complete with plastic dishes of pasta on the ground for the cats. We greeted them and they asked if we'd like a glass of wine, we declined explaining we had a drive home, they wished us a good walk. I was totally charmed by this pretty mountain village and it's kind people. Now when we sit out looking across the valley to the horizon and see the lights come on I know exactly what we are looking at and what a wonderful place it is.

Thursday, 8 June 2017


Not only did Crema return safe and sound if exhausted this morning but late last night Theo, the shy and gentle black cat who has been visiting for a few years appeared. We and Grigio were delighted to see the old boy who has always been so good with the little ones and his return gives us hope for the rest of the family, just so long as Lisa hasn't been adding to the numbers.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017


The annual water leak is fixed, the garden is coming on, today I finally cleaned the downstairs lounge, the one we never use, and I was going to say the cats have become permanent. However this morning a large grey striped stranger appeared howling on next doors balcony. Crema decided to join him and hasn't been seen since, not like her to miss food but let's not start to worry yet. We seem to have a new strain of mosquitos, generally they bite me but don't bother me, now I am coming up in itchy blisters and I have a large ugly lump on my forehead. Pizza delivery man Mr FF is here I must stop.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Change of life

After five days in the car we arrived back at our house in Italy. All the usual frustrations of Internet not working despite many trips to the Three shop and several payments, the irrigation is out of action, all my pot plants are dead and the house is filthy. But it's great to be back and two of our cats Crema and Grigio are around albeit part time as they still spend time with Giovanni and his family. Up until a month ago all the other cats were around too but they seem to have disappeared, we will take a walk out soon and see if we can spot them. We are cleaning and planting and socialising in equal measure. For some reason blogger has a mind of its own and it's really difficult to post so I won't go on but all is good, sun is out and I'll try again another day.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Calmness is restored

Now our bathroom is finished we have reinstated the second bedroom, until recently used as a work and storage area for all that was happening in the ensuite.
Although we envisaged buying fitted wardrobes for now Mr FF has moved the existing ones into the newly created space, they look fine. 
I bought a very cheap pair of off the shelf beige eyelet curtains, maybe they need an iron, but the room feels calm and of course has the benefit of the newly installed ensuite bathroom.  I'd be happy to sleep there, in fact we are toying with the idea of moving to the other end of the penthouse.  But don't think about coming over for a few days Mr FF is keen to get off to Italy.  Me I'd like to enjoy the quiet and the sunshine here for a while, I know what's waiting in a house that has been empty for 6 months and a garden that has been neglected for the same amount of time.  I could move into the second bedroom for a while before the next bout of dust and debris but we are leaving very soon.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

I couldn't wait

Having said I would take Josie Kittens sock pattern to Italy, I couldn't resist starting a pair using the Austermann Step yarn.
Both pattern and yarn got top marks, nice colour shading in a yarn that was good quality and an interesting textured pattern that wasn't too demanding.   I will definitely knit more of these especially as there are three size options.  

I am not really doing the pattern justice as I took the photos before I blocked. Sorry JK, not just in a hurry to start the pattern, in a hurry to show it off.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Breakfast treat

I love breakfast, its my favourite meal of the day.  When we wake before we get dressed one of us makes a pot of Yorkshire tea, I have one cup Mr FF two and whoever hasn't made the brew gets to drink theirs in bed reading. Eventually we drag ourselves into the shower, dress and properly set the kitchen table for breakfast.    For me its always a large milky coffee, Lavazza made in one of our many stove top espresso pots, some rough tough muesli and wholemeal toast with home made marmalade, honey or jam, preferably red.  Mr FF is much more demanding, he's heard to say I'm bored with this muesli before we get to the bottom of the jar and often cooks himself bacon or a poached egg.
So I was delighted to find these beautiful big cups recently in a charity shop, £3 for the 4.  I spotted them as soon as I went into the shop and I was thrilled to look underneath and see that they are Danish.

They are perfect for my cappuccino and making me very happy at the start of the day.  I expect Mr FF will be bored with them soon.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

A quick alert

The lovely people at Wool Warehouse have further reduced Drops Fabel 4 ply sock yarn to £1.30 for 50 g.  Since delivery is free on orders over £25 I fear there will be another lovely squashy bag of yarn arriving at the penthouse soon.
I have started using this yarn and I'm happy with the ways its knitting, I like the colour patterning and its not splitting or being at all tricky.  It may be slightly thinner than other brands and of course I can't guarantee how it will wash and wear but at the price I do think its worth a try.
I'd show you what I've done so far but we are off out for lunch, I will try to post later but for now I suggest you take a look.
Happy knitting.

photo added, shade 914 Shoreline

Sunday, 30 April 2017


We have over the last three days had Le Tour de Yorkshire cycle race passing through our beautiful county.    
Today was the last and toughest stage that passed through our town before tackling some serious climbs amongst amazing scenery.  And did we get a mention on the news, did we heck.  I am furious, we had top cyclists, millions of people out on the roads celebrating a wonderful event, no trouble, no problems, just a lot of fun and its totally free to enjoy.   Football, boxing, formula one all mentioned on the national news, Le Tour de Yorkshire not at all.  

Every inch of the route was packed with people, I bet there were more than a million spectators,  every town and village decked out with bunting and flags. Our wonderful Sir Gary Verity, chief exec of Welcome to Yorkshire, was driven round the route ahead of the race accompanied by Christian Prudhomme director of the Tour de France.  He reported that neither of them could believe the crowds and support, even better than the two previous years.  I wouldn't be surprised if we don't get another Grand Depart here before much longer and we already have the world road racing championships coming here in 2019.   We produce great riders, champions, the first Brit ever to win a stage on the Tour de France was from Yorkshire.   Brian Robinson was born in 1930, rode competitively in the 50s and 60s and still rides today.  I've met him, he's wonderful, a modest, genuine man who loves and supports cycling.  
Come on Britain, wake up to what happened here, this is special and important and positive, we are proud of how we make this event,  we want everyone to know how great it is and don't you think those guys on the bikes should get some credit to.  We are all cross.  

Monday, 24 April 2017

How did that happen

I am once again fully stocked with sock yarn so no further need to worry about me or the demise of my LYS.
The latest addition was this package from Wool Warehouse, again a beautifully presented bag full of Drops Fabel 4 ply, a yarn I haven't used before.   For some fortunate reasons Wool Warehouse applied an extra 10% discount to my bill for readers of Simply Crochet, I don't read that magazine, I can't crochet, so each 50 g ball worked out at £1.89, excellent.
Before ordering I checked the reviews on Ravelry and read that it was best to buy three balls as you can get two pairs of socks from 150 g, so mostly I did that risking 5 in one of the blue shades and hoping for either 3 pairs in a man's size or even a small persons garment. 
Rest assured that this year I shall not run out of yarn in Italy and I might still look there for something beautiful to make another Estuary.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Lest we forget

In my continued effort to clear the bookshelves, I've embarked on this
Three books in one, its a hardback of almost 600 pages so not ideal bedtime reading as I tend to nod off and drop it - heavily.  I've finished the first book, Regeneration, which centres on a real life encounter at Craiglockhart hospital Edinburgh, where first world war shell shocked soldiers were sent for treatment, between an army psychologist and Siegfried Sassoon.  At school so many years ago we studied the war poets, Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke et al, their words never left me so I enjoyed the book and knowing the setting from my years in Scotland made it all the more vivid.
Craiglockhart war hospital, now part of Edinburgh University
When we travel through France on our way to Italy the great war always comes into my mind as we pass signs for places from history, The Somme, Ypres, Arras and often we've glimpsed memorials and war graves from the motorway.  Two years ago we made a special visit to the Menim Gate in Ypres and last year as we travelled home we stopped off at the Ring of Remembrance, Notre Dame de Lorette.  
This remarkable modern memorial is a large ring of concrete containing 500 sheets of bronzed stainless steel listing 576,606 names, without rank of country, people of all nations who gave their lives in northern France.  I found it overwhelmingly sad.

The memorial is located on a strategic ridge that was bitterly contested during the war.  Nearby is a church with cemetery and ossuary that hold the remains of more than 40,000 soldiers as well as the ashes of many concentration camp victims, it was atmospherically misty when we were there.

Perhaps most touching of all were the elderly Frenchmen who every day stand at the entrance to the graveyard, each with a proud chestful of medals and wearing their berets.  This Honour Guard consists of volunteers who retain the memory of those who died for France and represent the families of the dead who are known to be burried in the cemetery.   We chatted to them briefly, they thanked us for our visit and we thanked them too.

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.
For the Fallen, Laurence Binyon

Monday, 10 April 2017

Knitting now

The Estuary scarf is finished and has been worn, yes it is more of a scarf than a shawl.  I was in one of the smart dress shops in town the other day and as soon as I walked in the sales assistant told me how beautiful it was,  I was very pleased and thanked her explaining I'd made it myself.  The yarn is beautifully soft, it drapes well and the pattern was delightful to knit, plenty of interest but not too challenging. So this item won't be leaving the penthouse but I'd be very happy to knit it again with some other suitably gorgeous yarn.
I used just under 4 x 50 g balls of yarn,  enough left overs to produce this little cowl which I am prepared to part with, its Spiral Cowl from Keri McKiernan.  I didn't knit the picot edge just started and finished with 5 rows of garter and kept going until the ball and a half were finished
Back to socks for now, I've started Sunshine from the Cookie A book I borrowed from the library using West Yorkshire Spinners 4 ply in cinnamon stick. 
And speaking of lovely socks, let me give a shout out to Josie Kitten and her latest pattern, I've already printed this to take out to Italy where I believe there is a decent stash awaiting my attention.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The big bathroom reveal

I don't have photographs of the bathroom before, it wasn't included on the estate agents details, for obvious reasons, it was the room they showed us last and I can understand why.  The floor tiles were black and white check, many of them broken because the floor underneath had been flooded in the past and rotted, the washbasin was a black counter top bowl that was too far onto the marble shelf to use comfortably and showed every soapy drop of water.
The cabinets had obviously been white and badly painted black, and the piece de resistance of course was the free standing black bath with silver feet, these are all the photos I have but you get the idea.
We managed to squeeze into the bathroom a large shower that has a steam facility, a bath, toilet and basin.  No way was I going to live in a home without a bath which did delayed the decision making and involve a lot of planning but we got there.  It was my original desire that I would be able to lay in the bath and look through the door across the bedroom to the hills but we had to move the door and take a chunk out of the bedroom to make space for new fitted wardrobes.  I was disappointed this didn't happen and very sad when the new wall was tiled, no going back then.
However the new bathroom is very beautiful.  There are just a few final touches, for example we fitted shiny white panels to the ceiling and the very last one to go up was damaged. 
We have to wait a week for a replacement but I can't wait another week to show you.

There's a handy storage drawer under the basin so I only need display my most beautiful toiletries

It was difficult to find a wash basin that didn't project too far into the room but still had putting down space, this is great

A lovely big shower head and in the photo below you can see there is also a little spray,  presumably for those hard to reach areas.  Yes there is a slight slope on the shower ceiling that's to allow the condensation to drain when we are steaming

That's not a phone on the wall in the shower its the controller for the steam facility

The back lit auto demist mirror is operated by holding your hand at the bottom, Mr FF has left the instruction on the wall for those of us who fail to embrace technology

My bath 

The pale grey marble that edges the bath is also used in the bottom of the recess behind the toilet

We designed the layout ourselves (after much argument) and sourced the fittings and tiles direct.  We paid day rates to Jim our plumber/tiler/boy wonder who added some very lovely details, Jack our joiner and Lewis our electrician, Mr FF project managed and I was the gofer doing emergency dashes for bits and pieces in town. I also provided copious amounts of tea and coffee, biscuits, bacon sandwiches and sometimes lunches, everyone got on great and it was a pleasure to have the boys around.  We are all delighted with the end result but personally I am so glad its finished.  Now where's my shower cap.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The light is fantastic

The entrance hall into our penthouse had no natural light, I could show you how it looked but it would just be a black screen though the installers of our solution did take a photograph with the door slightly open.  
We've fitted a sun tube, for the technically minded there are details here but basically we now have a little transparent dome on the roof of the building with a highly reflective tube running down through the roof void to our hall and the end is fitted with a diffuser in the ceiling.  
If you are wondering why we have two front doors one is the fire escape
 It looks much like a ceiling lamp but is pure natural sunlight
It is truly amazing how much light such a little opening gives, on a sunny day its almost too bright and we constantly think we've left lights on by mistake.  The equipment took half a day to install, made hardly any mess, no not even dust, and we are delighted with the improvement.
New windows before the trims were replaced
The second life enhancing change has been new double glazed aluminium windows in our two bedrooms.  Previously we had distorted wood sash and case single glazed units that streamed condensation, got stuck if you opened them too far and had so much frame and architrave they let in precious little light. Now we have windows that open, have built in ventilation units, are constantly clear and show off our glorious views to perfection.
Finally the new tiles to the balcony are finished and I've put out the folding dining table I bought a while back in the Habitat sale.  
It's perfect for a small space as it opens out fully to comfortably seat four or partially to seat two and the four chairs are stored underneath. 
We did sit out over the weekend just for coffee but it's cold again today, so much potential though, so much light and so much work that has been well worth the effort.  When we bought the penthouse Mr FF complained it would be too dark, he's not complaining now.

And in view of the ongoing home improvements, I've given my blog a little renovation too, I do like the extra large photographs which never seemed to fit on my previous template.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Trust me

I thought my now I'd be showing you our beautifully completed bathroom, wrong it is still sadly a work in progress but maybe soon as there is just some lighting and final fixing of controls to sort out.  
Meanwhile I'll tell you about the engineer and the scaffolder.
A while back we had a company round to talk about scaffolding part of our building to enable a worker safely to complete the lead work surrounding our soon to be installed new double glazed aluminium windows.  Yes those four windows that had been in the lounge for about a month.
It's a tricky operation, we needed a tower to come up from the garden to the fourth floor over the balcony and a platform to span to the window on the other side of said balcony to protect anyone working on the windows.  As an extra precaution the worker would be harnessed to the balcony. 
Mr FF had of course done all the calculations for the structure and it was feasible, the scaffold man agreed and gave us a price, fairly costly but we thought worth while. In actual fact the lead work to the building isn't our responsibility but we were prepared to fork out for it just to get the job finished and risk retrospective installation that might damage our windows.  We got all the necessary permissions and alerted our neighbours who were absolutely fine about living with scaffold for a few days.
So four workers plus the boss, two lorries and a van arrived to start putting up the scaffold.  I say start work, they only took one board and a length of pipe off the vehicles before the arguments started.  The boss decided that we needed two towers not one because he wasn't happy with the cantilever arrangement he'd agreed to earlier.  Mr FF pointed out the original scheme was feasible but the boss simply shouted from the balcony down 4 floors to one of the men 'You've done the course Joe, how far can we span it's a metre isn't it'.  Mr FF again explained what could safely be done, we can understand no one wanted to take any risks here,  but the boss wasn't having any of it and got a bit shouty, always a great response. Mr FF got cross too, 'I'm a chartered civil and structural engineer' he said, 'I'm a fellow of both professional institutions, I know what I'm talking about'  apparently not as he hadn't 'done the course'.
So work was abandoned, the boss said he'd get back to us that evening with a revised price and wouldn't let us down, that was Friday and the builder and lead worker were due the following Tuesday.  As you might imagine we heard nothing whatsoever, we cancelled the lead worker.
We're happy to be rid of the scaffold people, obviously dodgy if they changed their minds and wanted more money when they came to deliver but we did smile about them referring to the opinion some boy who has been on a course over a man with more than 40 years professional experience and enough qualifications to fill a suitcase.  I'm thinking of getting Mr FF this t shirt, the one that says Trust Me I've done the Course just doesn't have the same ring to it.